Will: The party that produced four Bush nominations in 20 years is hardly "extreme"

Let’s play a game that we used to play in school, and lay out a series of data points to see if anyone can guess what they have in common.  Ready?  Here we go:

  • Bush, Bush, Dole, Bush, Bush, McCain, Romney

What’s the answer?  As George Will insisted yesterday on ABC’s This Week, it sure isn’t extremism, despite what Jeb Bush thinks:

“Well, let’s look at the facts,” Will said. “Since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has given its presidential nomination four times to the Bush family. Other times, to Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney — where’s the extremist in that lot? Now, Jeb Bush’s father is celebrated today for a statesman ship that consisted of breaking the promise to the American people of not raising taxes. He had a budget deal in 1990, Austan [Goolsbee] because this goes back to something you said earlier. In the budget deal it was said for every $2 of — every dollar of tax increase, would be $2 of spending cuts. The tax increases went into effect and spending increased.”

Will added that it is popular for observers to romanticize politicians like Reagan, along with conservative commentator William Buckley and 1964 presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, after the fact.

“We’re going through this — we go through this all the time,” he continued. “About 20 years after a conservative leaves the scene or dies, he becomes acceptable. They said, ‘If only people were more like Ronald Reagan, that wonderful libertarian curmudgeon Barry Goldwater and that fine fellow Bill Buckley.’ I worked for Bill Buckley, voted for Barry Goldwater, knew Ronald Reagan and no one talked about him on the left that way at the time.”

For that matter, take a look at the main contenders in the Republican primary this year, once the voting started.  The race came down to Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum.  All of these men had good qualities and shortcomings, but none of them are known for their extremist bent, no matter what the hyperventilating media might have said at the time. All four represented the same mainstreams in Republican politics that existed when Reagan was President, and have ever since.

It seems especially churlish to hear this kind of complaint coming from former Governor Jeb Bush after watching his father and brother rack up more than half of the GOP’s presidential nominations in the last 30 years.  Will does a nice job with Bush’s hanging curve and knocks it out of the park.

On the same show, Tim Pawlenty argues that the real problem is the “arsonist” of bipartisanship in the White House at the moment. Gore, Kerry, Obama, Obama.  And Jeb’s griping about extremism in the GOP?